Rewrite: Rule 12.3. Award of a penalty corner. Alternative penalty


A suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey

The current Rule 12.3.

A penalty corner is awarded :

a   for an offence by a defender in the circle which does not prevent the probable scoring of a goal

b   an intentional offence in the circle by a defender against an opponent who does not have possession of the ball or an opportunity to play the ball
c   for an intentional offence by a defender outside the circle but within the 23 metres area they are defending

d   for intentionally playing the ball over the back-line by a defender

Goalkeepers or players with goalkeeping privileges are permitted to deflect the ball with their stick, protective equipment or any part of their body in any direction including over the back-line.

e   when the ball becomes lodged in a player’s clothing or equipment while in the circle they are defending.

There is also this, from Rule 13.3.l Procedure for the taking of a penalty corner:- 

A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.
Otherwise, if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded.

A player struck with the ball below the knee in these circumstances has not necessarily committed an offence, but the award of a penalty corner is nonetheless mandatory: an odd conflict. This particular reason for the award of penalty should be abolished as it is unjust and also encourages reckless and even dangerous shooting ‘through’ (at) out-running defenders. Those who say defenders shouldn’t run out and remain positioned between the shooter and the goal (and who usually also criticise defenders who remain positioned just in front of the goal-line to defend the goal) have yet to offer a reasonable suggestion for a defensive action by defenders that would be acceptable to both parties. But the foregoing is part of the argument for the abolition of the penalty corner and can be deferred for the moment.

There is also a proposal to abolish the present penalty corner and replace it with a power play, a play which will take place within the 23m area of the team penalised.  


Action. Amendment and proposal for the introduction of an additional, less severe penalty, than a penalty corner (or a power play).


Reason. Fairness. 

When a defending player, most often the goalkeeper, deflects the ball up high off his or her equipment within the circle, an umpire will usually penalise the defender for play likely to lead to dangerous play, if there are players from both teams in the circle who might then contest for the ball. This seems harsh, as such upward deflections are generally unintended (being completely unavoidable and/or accidental or the goalkeeper was trying to parry the ball up and behind the goal) were at one time dealt with by having a bully taken 5 yards from the circle.

When the ball was trapped in equipment, again usually the protective equipment of a goalkeeper, the restart was with a bully. I am not sure why the FIH Rules Committee decided that these accidental incidents should be penalised with a penalty corner and I don’t think it right (fair) that they are.

The intentional playing of the ball over the base-line by a defender is also unnecessarily harshly penalised with the award of a penalty corner. it is an action that should not be penalised at all because it is not an offence.

The recent abolition of the corner (long) and the replacement of it with a restart on the 23m line will get players accustomed to taking restarts from that line and also in planning how best to take advantage of them, so it shouldn’t be a big step to introduce a penalty restart (a free ball) taken centrally (or in line with the offence or incident) – especially if the FIH Rules Committee can be persuaded to delete the restrictive prohibition on playing the ball directly into the circle from a free awarded in the opponents 23m area.


Useful comment and suggestions welcome

Rule (12+) 23m ball. 

A penalty to be taken as a free ball from a position opposite to the opponent’s goal and on the 23m line will be awarded following:-

a)  A deflection by a defender within the circle that puts the ball high into the air from where it will fall between players from opposing teams and could lead to dangerous play.

b)  The accidental trapping of the ball in the clothing or equipment of a defender within the circle.


There has previously been suggestion from others, that unintentional ball-body contact by a defender in the circle could be penalised with a free awarded from a position outside the circle. I am not in favour of penalising of an action that is not an offence, there is enough of that going on already.

There will be other kinds of incidents for which the award of a 23m free ball to the attacking team (or defenders?) would be suitable resolution, so the list is for now left open.   





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